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I lay you down to sleep

Chapter Text

Dean didn’t manage to move until the sun rose. Even then, it was because of Sam. His brother had come and shaken him gently, for quite a long time probably. He had asked him if Dean wanted to get Cas home for his funeral or do it there. The older Winchester had only managed to say home, before going into the house retrieve some blankets.

 

They had buried Kelly to the outskirts of the forest, put Cas’ body in the back of the impala and taken off to the bunker, Dean behind the wheel.

 

Sam called Jody a third into their way back, to tell her how things had turned out. Really, the only good news they had to offer was Lucifer being locked in another universe. Their mother was stuck with him, probably dead already, Kelly was dead, her son on the loose, and Cas had been killed by Lucifer.

Dean, who had gripped the wheel with more force than necessary when Mary was mentioned, swerved the car and clenched his jaw, prompting an alarmed look from Sam. His brother wrapped up the conversation quickly after that. Jody had said Claire had come to visit her and that they would come to the Bunker for the funeral.

Funeral. The word seemed strange. Especially for Cas. They wouldn’t really even be burning him. The body they had, was his vessel. But at the same time it had been more than a vessel for so long now.

They had lost him several times, but never had a body to burn. And except for that time in the lake… Cas had been brought back almost immediately. Having a body, it gave a sense of finality. He wouldn’t come back this time. He was really gone. For good.

The thought made his stomach lurch, and Dean hastily pulled over. He got out of the car, and almost ran to the nearest tree where he leaned an arm. After a good minute of dry heaving, he felt a hand on his right shoulder.

“Dean ?”, his brother asked gently. “I’m fine”, he mumbled back.

 

The older Winchester took a few deep breaths and finally looked at his brother. Sam’s eyes seemed to be searching for something, then his frown softened, and he said “I’ll drive for a bit. You rest.”

Dean didn’t feel the energy to contradict him. After an hour of Sam’s driving, Dean started to doze a bit. He woke up half an hour later, the sight of white light erupting from Cas’ face burning behind his eyelids. Not wanting to risk looking in the back of the car, he turned his gaze outside.

They mostly kept silent during their way back, the radio here only for background noise. They stopped two times for snacks, gas and toilet rest. They switched seats twice also to rest a bit, even though neither of them managed to really sleep.

The brothers made it to the Bunker in over a day, arriving in the early afternoon. Jody and Claire would be coming shortly, and they needed to prepare them rooms. Dean would do that while Sam did a quick run into town for supplies. But first… first they had to put Castiel inside. Bring him home one last time.

Dean parked baby in the garage and the brothers unloaded the trunk. Later, as Dean stepped towards the backseat door, his brother put a hand on his shoulder, silently asking him. Dean shook his head and opened the door. He took a deep breath and slowly got into the car. He choked back tears as he lifted the blanketed body of his friend in his arms. His dead friend.

The distance between baby and Cas’ room seemed to stretch infinitely, and it felt like hours had passed when Dean finally stood in front of the bedroom’s door.

Sam pushed the door open, and Dean walked into the room. Scarcely furnished, without anything really personal in it. Castiel never put any decoration, never really appropriated the room for himself. They maybe didn’t give him enough reasons to do so, Dean mused. And now… it was too late.

The older brother took the few steps to the bed with lead laced boots. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and lowered Castiel on his bed. He then opened the blankets to reveal the body under them and gently replaced a strand of hair. There. If you ignored the stillness, it was as if Cas was asleep.

Except he wasn’t, and the memory of his death played itself once again before Dean’s eyes. Unable to keep seeing it, he stormed out of the room to busy himself. He had two rooms to set up.

 

Dean had been sitting in the library for some time, not doing anything, when suddenly there was a loud knock on the door. It was nearly seven, so that should be Jody and Claire. He got up to go answer, but Sam beat him to it. He was proven right a few seconds later, when the two women came into view.

Sam hugged them both quickly before he let them enter. As soon as Claire noticed Dean standing near the table, she sped up and her face crunched up with a myriad of expressions. He didn’t get to start trying to analyse them, because as soon as he was within arm’s reach, she punched him in the chest.

“You promised !” another punch “You promised me you would look out for him !”

She was right. He had promised her, and he had been a shit friend. And if she could let off some grief by rightfully blaming him, he would let her. So he let her punch him -it wasn’t doing a lot of harm, she wasn’t putting her strength in it-, but if it could do something for her…

It didn’t last long. Claire hit him another couple of times before stopping, both fists crippling his shirt. She stood still for a couple of seconds then Dean brought his arms around her shoulders. The young woman buried her face in the crook of his head whilst the older hunter cradled her neck. His heart ached for Claire. She was so young and had lost so much already. They stayed locked together for some time, before they left the empty war room and Dean led her to Cas.

 

The rest of the evening went surprisingly quickly. Jody and Claire unpacked their bags, Dean fixed them a quick meal, they ate in relative silence, then the girls retired to their rooms. Dean didn’t speak once. It’s not he didn’t want to… he just… couldn’t. His head felt like wrapped up in cotton. It was as if he wasn’t there, almost like a dissociation. Maybe it was. Or maybe he was just completely numb.

After he finished cleaning up in the kitchen, he went to see if Sam was in the library. His brother was there, hunched over a book. He had already started looking into parallel universes then. Dean took a look at his tired face and slumped shoulders. Sam was hurting too: Mary was their mother, and Cas had been his friend too. But he also lost Eileen. The kid could have been happy with her, if their exchanges had been of any indication. So yeah, Dean knew his brother was grieving too. But he couldn’t bring himself to do anything to alleviate that grief. Not this time. Hell, his mouth wouldn’t even let out more than three words at a time.

He saw Sam lift his head and start to open his mouth. But then he apparently decided against it, because his brother ported his gaze back down again. Good. Dean didn’t know if he would have been able or even willing to answer anyway. He simply took a seat across from the other hunter and opened up a book. It’s not as if he would be able to sleep anyway.

 

It was a pain in his arm that made him decide to go to bed. He stood up and saw Sam slumped over a chair. His brother didn’t seem uncomfortable, so Dean decided not to wake him up. He needed the rest. He quickly grabbed a blanket and draped it over his brother’s shoulders and retreated to his room.

Sleep eluded him for hours. The complete darkness and silence of his room only allowed his brain to assault him with images of Cas’ death. Again and again. Castiel’s smile when he had walked back in their universe, Sam’s breath of relief. The shocked look of Cas’ face, as white light erupted from him. His own scream, as Lucifer plunged Cas’ own blade in his back. Then Castiel’s limp body falling on the ground as his evil brother taunted the Winchesters. And their mother. Their mother, who either to protect them or avenge Cas, maybe both, had managed to send Lucifer in the other dimension, falling with him into the rift.

When sleep finally caught up with him, it was only to see the same images. After waking with a start, Dean looked up at the time: 4am. He had barely slept for an hour. Without him really noticing anything, he suddenly stood up in front of a familiar door. His hand reached the handle and opened the door as if of its own accord. The man walked in and gently pushed the door. He lifted his head and sucked a breath. Here he was, still looking as peaceful as he left him hours ago. Dean walked past the chair that was next to the bed, probably left here by Sam or Claire earlier and sat with his back to the wall, facing the door.

He was still there in the morning, head on the bed, a hand clutching Cas’, when Sam opened the slightly ajar door.

Chapter Text

When Dean woke up, he felt a burn in his left arm, and pain in his back. Wondering how his memory foam could have betrayed him like this, he slowly opened his eyes. Only to close them back hastily upon seeing where he was. Cas’ room. His back hurt because he had fallen asleep sitting against the wall, and his arm was uncomfortably stretched. The man gazed over to his hand. He was still clutching Castiel’s. His angel was cold.

How fucking wrong was this. Cas being cold was wrong because he had been like a fucking sun. Even when they had been fighting, his presence had always warmed him up. No matter how bad things were, if Cas was present, everything was better.  Now, it was as if an icy hand had taken hold of Dean’s chest. Without moving either his head or his hand, the hunter let the minutes pass. He tried praying, like he had done the night Cas… got stabbed, but to no avail. He only moved when he heard some shuffling in the corridor, indicating the others were up. He glanced at the lifeless face of his angel, and, surprising himself, deposed a light kiss on his forehead. Then he squeezed Cas’ hand one last time, and stood up.

Dean went to the kitchen and waved hello at the occupants. Jody was making breakfast, so he started the coffee maker and leaned on the counter. Once he got his cup, Dean sat down and stared at the table, hands wrapped around the hot beverage. A few minutes later, Jody put a plate in front of him and he nodded in thanks. He grabbed his fork and cut a slice of bacon in half. He slowly rose the utensil to his lips and put the food in his mouth. It tasted like cardboard. He took a sip of coffee. The taste of the drink was more enjoyable but didn’t have real flavour. He kept on eating the rest of his food, but didn’t enjoy one bit. In the end, he had to force himself to finish the portion of eggs and bacon he had been pushing in his plate. It was food and you didn’t throw good food away. Also he would need calories for the upcoming day.

Sighing, Dean swallowed his last piece of egg and could feel it descend into his stomach. It felt like a pit had taken place there. In truth, all he wanted to do was let it fall on his plate and vanish somewhere he wouldn’t have to think.

The morning went in a blur. He saw himself moving more than he actually remembered being active. He knew he had gone to the forest with Sam to cut some wood and they had built the pyre behind the bunker. He could see himself doing that, but it was like he was watching a movie. An out-of-body experience, was that called ? Probably. Sam could certainly answer that. But that meant Dean had to ask him. And that wasn’t in the cards right now.

 

At lunch, Dean fixed the Bunker’s occupants some sandwiches. They tasted like cardboard too. The pit in his belly had grown and didn’t seem it would stop anytime soon. Setting the used dishes in the sink, he swallowed hard. No matter what he did, his stomach felt heavier and his chest tighter by the minute. No small chore would put away the inevitable. They were going to give Cas a hunter’s funeral. It had been three days already, and Cas… Cas hadn’t come back.

Dean desperately tried to pray Chuck once more. He even tried praying to Amara, and any other angel who had still their ears on, but the result was the same as every other time he had tried these past days. Silence. Complete silence, save for his quickening breath. The hunter curled his fingers into fists and drew some deep breaths. In, out. In, out. Once calmer, he unclenched his fist and opened the water. The dishes were done under five minutes, and he couldn’t find any excuse to delay the inevitable.

Slowly, Dean left the kitchen and went to the library where Sam, Claire and Jody were waiting for him. He stopped just before he could come up into their lines of view, putting his mask back into place. Then he took the few remaining steps and faced the grim faces of his family.

 

In the end, he was the one who carried Cas’ body to the pyre, Sam opening the doors for him. Like the day before, the travel seemed to go on forever. Not that he wanted for the whole ordeal to go quicker. Of course not. It just seemed time was playing with him recently.

The hunter was brought back to reality when Castiel’s head rolled on his arm. He was now in front of the pyre, and all eyes were on him. Gently, as if he was handling a glass sculpture, he lay Castiel down on the wood.

Dean let his hand linger on Cas’ wrapped body for a few seconds then took a step back. Sam poured gas then gave him a lighter. That was it. He just needed to light the pyre. Uncap the lighter, ignite a flame, throw the object onto the wood. Three steps. His hand wasn’t cooperating. In fact, his entire body was frozen. He heard his brother call him softly and turned his head.

He studied Sam’s questioning face for a few seconds. His brother had bags under his reddening eyes, a three days beard, and his hair was a mess. You didn’t have to look long to see the pain in those eyes. Yet, Sam was trying to keep it together for their sakes.

The older Winchester closed his eyes for a brief second then looked at his brother and slightly shook his head. He would do it. Dean took a step forward, the pit in his stomach threatening to swallow him whole, and ignited a flame. He locked his gaze on Castiel’s body as he raised his arm. He was going to be sick. He threw the lighter.

 

As the flame erupted from the base of the pyre, everything shut down around him. No sound, no smell, no perception of time. Sam at his side was only a presence at the back of his head. Cas was gone and his remains were burning. His angel would not come back this time. Suddenly he felt compelled to say something, for the first time in days.

“Goodbye Cas.” He whispered, before repressing a sob. “I’ll miss you.” A tear rolled out on his face at the same time he heard a sharp intake of breath from his brother.

Where did angels go when they died ? That was a question he never asked. One more thing to add to his pile of regrets. Whatever it was, he hoped that Castiel finally had the peace he deserved.

As Dean, unmoving, watched the fire consume the body of his best friend, he felt a hand come up to his shoulder and stay there for a moment. He didn’t notice it moving away, nor did he hear the others going back inside. Dean’s mind came back into focus when there was nothing left to burn and the fire had died. He collected the ashes and buried the urn at the edge of the forest. Sam had carved a small stone with Castiel’s name in enochian.

Chapter Text

Dean went back inside in time to see Jody drop a kiss on Sam’s head, her arm wrapped around Claire’s waist. She locked eyes with Dean as he climbed down the stairs and the look of pity and compassion made him lower his gaze. He couldn’t deal with that now. He needed a drink. More than one probably. Anything to help him stay in the dull state he was now.
He couldn’t allow himself to think about… about Cas or about mom now. He couldn’t, because if he did, he wouldn’t be able to do anything else. And that was terrifying.

He went to find alcohol in the kitchen but his feet led him to the shooting range pretty quickly. He let out all his anger on the target sheets. He was apparently more angry than he felt because he discharged three entire chargers on a single paper. Every single bullet either hit the centre or the head. Until his vision started to be blurry and he had to stop. At that moment, Jody came in and told him some food was ready. He didn’t want to eat, but his friend wouldn’t take no for an answer, so he followed her. He quickly grabbed some food and set himself to do some chores. Anything to keep his mind occupied.

Unfortunately, he had done this this morning too and almost nothing was left. It was still quite early, around ten probably. With heavy legs Dean went to the library, where he knew there was some whiskey left. Several bottles even, in fact. He grabbed the first one available. It was Crowley’s. The one he had brought all those months ago. They still hadn’t finished it.

It was fitting, Dean decided, so he closed the cabinet and sat in one of the chairs. He was past his third -or fourth- glass when Sam arrived in the library, fetched a glass for himself and sat in front of him.

“Is this…”, Sam started. Dean nodded. “I still can’t believe he sacrificed himself.”

His brother let the silence plane then poured them two shots. “He wasn’t all bad after all. To Crowley.”

“To Crowley”, Dean replied before downing his shot as if it were water. Sam pulled a face, so he decided to slow down a bit. At least until Sam left. Although his brother didn’t seem inclined to leave any soon. Instead, he just kept on talking.

“D’ya think we’ll get mom back ?”

Dean looked at him. He wanted to believe so, but the rational part of his brain screamed that she had been trapped with Lucifer. She was probably dead. That hadn’t prevented him to do research on parallel universes, but still. There was only a slim probability she was still alive. His brother looked at him like Dean had all he answers. There was a spark of hope in his eyes, he noticed.

Dean couldn’t crush that. He might not be able to provide moral support to his brother, but he could do that for him.

“I hope Sammy.”

Unfortunately, thinking of his mother made him think about the entire events, and it was more and more difficult to avoid thinking about him. He poured himself another glass but didn’t bring it to his lips yet. He turned the glass so that the liquid twirled inside. After a good minute of playing with his whiskey, he drank the entire thing in one go. So much for slowing down.

“Dean…”

“Don’t.”

 

A tense silence installed itself on the library. Both brothers were deep in thoughts. Again, Dean poured himself a drink. He had lost count at this point. Less then ten, but that was all he knew. This time, he sipped it and kept his eyes on the table.

“Alright that’s enough. Ca - He wouldn’t like that. None of them would want you to do that.” His brother had a frown on his face and put the bottle back in the cabinet. Dean didn’t protest. His brother’s slip hadn’t gone unnoticed though, even to his alcohol induced brain. Images he had tried to avoid for hours came back. He saw himself being dragged back to their universe by Sam. He remembered waiting anxiously to know what happened. Seeing Cas come back, the intense relief he had felt. Then the shock painted on his angel’s face, his grace flowing out, his own scream. The endless hours, looking at wings imprint, waiting for a miracle to happen.

 

His breath clenched. “He’s gone Sammy.” It was as the damn preventing him from talking had lifted. Now, he couldn’t stop words from pouring out. A vice had taken hold of his chest. “He’s gone and I keep expecting him to walk in the room. Say “Hello Dean”, then talk about whatever brings him here. Because he always had a serious reason to come. He was almost never around just for the sake of it.” He had stayed a bit more than necessary, sometimes, but that was it. Always gone, after business had been taken care of. “I wanted him around Sam. For his company. Just for him. Why did he always feel the need to leave ?” Only now did he lift his head to look at Sam. That had been a mistake. His brother had red eyes and was biting his lip. He’d better not start crying, because Dean wouldn’t be able to prevent his own tears to fall. Suddenly, his anger returned.

“Dammit ! Why did he have to play the hero ?” he shouted. “He should have stayed in the house. Or not. Tried to secure the house, I don’t know. But he should have never stepped foot in that fucking parallel universe ! Dammit, if he had not gone after Lucifer he would still be alive ! Stupid sonovabitch.” Dean took another sip of his whiskey and looked at Sam. A tear had made its way down his face, and others were about to do the same. His anger left the same way it came, and there was nothing left in Dean but sorrow.

 

He wouldn’t see Castiel anymore. He wouldn’t talk with him anymore. No more teachable moments. No more laughs. He wouldn’t see his friend’s confused face after a reference he didn’t understand. There would be no more little touches. No more pats on the shoulder. No more hugs.
He should have hugged him more. Told him how much he mattered. Been a better friend really. Insisted that it was because Cas was Cas, not for his resources, that Dean wanted, needed him around. He should have told Cas how loved he was.

Sam stood up and slowly started leaving the room. Dean took another sip, and pinned his gaze on the wall. He opened his mouth one more time, when his brother was at his shoulder.

“I loved him. And I never told him, Sam. I never said anything.” And now it was too late. Dean could say it as much as he wanted, but Cas wouldn’t know. He was so stupid. He had been scared and now it was too late.

 

The words seemed to leave his throat raw, so he drank to soothe it away, eyes never leaving the wall. Dean felt two strong arms engulf him in a warm embrace from behind and it broke down the last wall. His hand left his now empty glass to grasp his brother’s arm. Then the tears started to fall. He tried to wipe them out at first, but the pain that hit him was too much and he couldn’t anymore. His chest was so tight he couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t see anything, but after all his sun was gone so that made sense. He simply closed his eyes.

Dean distantly felt his brother adjusting his position. His head was now pressed to a very wide, very warm, very alive chest. He brought his arms around Sam’s midsection, suddenly feeling like a child seeking comfort to their parents after a bad dream. Except this wouldn’t pass.

In between two sobs Dean heard hurried footsteps coming their way. He tried to disentangle from his brother but to no avail. Sam wouldn’t let him move. “It’s gonna be okay Dean.”, he whispered. Judging by the sound of his voice, he was crying too. Dean shook his head. How was that possible ?

“I miss him already” he chocked. “I know”, his brother answered.

Suddenly, another hand was on his head. His eyes snapped open, revealing Jody. She had tears in her eyes as well. He probably was a total mess, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. It was Jody. The hand on his head travelled to his face, her thumb stroking his cheek. He squeezed his eyes shut and felt a new onslaught of tears coming up.

“It won’t be easy, and the pain will never disappear. But it will get easier. Trust me.”, she said.

He wanted to believe her. He really wanted to. But he couldn’t see how this visceral pain would possibly stop. Cas was dead, and Dean's world had lost his sun.